FIRE DETECTIONWi-Fi System Improves Fire Detection

Published 24 August 2022

Engineers have developed a new fire detection system that could help save lives by monitoring the changes in Wi-Fi signals. A Sydney Harbour Tunnel explosion showcases the work of the researchers, which use wireless signals and artificial intelligence to more accurately identify dangerous fire situations.

Engineers from UNSW Sydneyhave developed a new fire detection system that could help save lives by monitoring the changes in Wi-Fi signals.

And a controlled test detonation of a car, planned by the Sydney Harbour Tunnel Company, recently provided further data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology.

Professor Aruna SeneviratneDr Deepak Mishra, and a team from the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications have designed and built a system that monitors Wi-Fi signals as they pass through the air – and analyses detailed changes in the environment due to such things as temperature and smoke.

The researchers have identified the distinctive patterns in the data from radio signals during fire events, and artificial intelligence within their software helps analyse the environment in real-time.

The system can then determine with greater accuracy whether any atmospheric changes are being caused by a real fire, and if so, raise an alarm or trigger an automatic sprinkler system.

Existing detection systems, which are largely based on thermal imaging, often produce false positive readings by detecting levels of smoke or changes in temperature which are not dangerous or caused by an actual fire – perhaps from a faulty exhaust pipe on a vehicle or a hot radiator.

But Prof. Seneviratne and his team were able to showcase their new technology during a controlled test in the middle of the night inside the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

In conjunction with Trantek MST, the incumbent mission-critical systems vendor for the tunnel, and the tunnel owner/operator, Sydney Harbour Tunnel Company, the researchers set up a series of transmitters and receivers to monitor the environment as a test car prepared for the purpose was detonated and set on fire during a scheduled emergency response training exercise.

The project to test the first real-life application of this technology was supported through Innovation Connections, which provided matched funding support to Trantek and connected researchers at UNSW with the business. Innovation Connections is part of the Australian Government Entrepreneurs’ Programme, delivered nationally by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

“It is basically relatively simple high school physics. What we have are a transmitter and a receiver and we can monitor the radio signal as it travels through the air,” Prof. Seneviratne says.